Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Black Stage Sunday at Fun Fun Fun Fest

Andy O'Connor

Friday and Saturday, the metal legends that headlined Fun Fun Fun Fest’s black stage, Judas Priest and King Diamond, were the clear highlights of that stage and arguably the whole fest. Sunday was a different story — the new jacks won the Black Stage. And they won their battles early.

Who could possibly compete against Priest and the King? How about…The Murder City Devils? Really? Sunday used to feel like a big day for Fun Fun Fun fest’s Black Stage – 2011 and last year saw thrash legends Slayer headline and 2012 was Norwegian deathpunks Turbonegro’s grand return to Austin. By contrast, MCD drew nowhere near as many people as those bands. There were punks who got to relive their 20s, that’s for sure, but MCD was not a grand exit for the festival. In fact, they were downright deflating compared to the over-the-top shows of Priest and King. It was more a shrug with a lot of sailor tattoos. Coady Willis is a swell drummer, but let’s hope he comes back next year with The Melvins or Big Business. San Diego punks Rocket from the Crypts, who played right before, didn’t fare much better. For them, the sadness was just setting in, while MCD made it full blown.

So, who did win the day?

Allentown punks Pissed Jeans were determined to loosen up everyone in the crowd. They take not taking things seriously quite seriously, especially with Matt Korvette’s messy blonde mop as a sacrilege to 90s jaded rockstar excess. The guitars were acting up during the beginning of their set, forcing the band to go into a mock improv death metal jam session before everything was fixed. It was pretty interesting, and at least worth a stopgap EP. Tinny bass dominated the band’s sound, but given their noise rock roots, it actually worked in their favor. Korvette expressed astonishment at stage divers, and he was likely kidding, but it’s a better look than trying to force them out.

Deafheaven may have been the best band of Sunday. While their layered black metal may not seem like a good fit for a Sunday afternoon, they owned the stage. In particular, singer George Clarke used every opportunity to get the front row salivating. He would bless the crowd as kids piled on to grab his hand (and sometimes his shirt) like a metal preacher. It was also just plain cool to see kids who don’t look like they normally go to metal shows crowd surf and stage dive with abandon. “From the Kettle Onto the Coil” sounded particularly forceful, and the outdoor sound did not diminish the subtle beauties of “Dream House” and “Sunbather.” They also dedicated their last song, “Unrequited,” to Black Task, whose bassist Jonathan Athon passed away yesterday following a motorcycle accident. Deafheaven closed out the Black Stage, even though there will still bands for the next few hours.